A Hamilton County dispute between a local couple and their homeowners association will return to the trial court after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined the trial court’s final order was based on erroneous findings.
When Craig and Catherine Severance began operating a commercial limousine business out of their Hamilton County home in the Pleasant View subdivision, the Pleasant View Homeowners Association filed a complaint alleging the couple was parking their commercial vehicles on their lot and in the street in violation of neighborhood covenants. The Hamilton Superior Court granted a preliminary injunction that prohibited the couple from parking their business vehicles outdoors within the subdivision.
The Severances filed objections to the preliminary injunction, alleging irregularities in the election and/or appointment of HOA board members meant the board was without authority to sue them on behalf of the HOA. Meanwhile, the HOA sought a permanent injunction, but the trial court declined to enter one in November 2016 because the HOA was “clearly a dysfunctional entity” operating without authority. The court also dissolved the temporary restraining order.
The court reserved the issue of damages for a later date, and the Severances sought the damages, specifically attorney fees, in February 2017. The HOA, however, pointed the court to recently passed legislation in Indiana Code section 32-25.5-3-11, which it claimed nullified the couple’s argument regarding the association’s ability to enforce the neighborhood covenants.
The trial court ultimately denied damages to the Severances and upheld the denial of a permanent injunction in June 2017, leading to the instant cross-appeals. The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned that decision in a Tuesday opinion, with Judge Terry Crone writing the November 2016 order was not a final order, as the trial judge believed, because it left open the issue of damages.
Thus, the findings in the June 2017 order were based on the erroneous assumption that the November 2016 order was final, “thus limiting the issues available for the trial court’s consideration,” Crone said. The appellate panel remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing on the merits of issuing a permanent injunction. In a footnote, Crone said the trial court should consider I.C. 32-25.5-3-11 when hearing the case on remand.
The case is Craig D. Severance and Catherine Severance v. The Pleasant View Homeowners Association, Inc., 29A02-1708-PL-1695.